Goodbye to Eternity

I know there's something in the weight of your smile

I get a notion from the look in your eyes

I watched as he closed his eyes and willed himself to make that shot. Even without looking I could feel the strength of his spirit, his unshakeable resolve to carry his team to victory. I could feel his desire to win, felt it so ardently it burned into my soul though he was miles away from where I stood at the sidelines. He had become stronger, far stronger than I had ever thought possible and at that very moment, I felt the most precious thing in my life slip away from my desperate grasp.

I was supposed to be the stronger one, the better one, the one who had almost everything and could accomplish almost anything. I was supposed to be his goal, that soaring dream he was supposed to fly to and reach someday. I was supposed to be the finish line, the omega, the purpose that he would be carving his life's path for. And it should've taken him longer, a far longer time in order to be where I stood. But I was wrong---painfully, painfully wrong. He grew up too fast and grew better, sturdier wings. He wasn't flying to me now but rising above---to far greater heights that even I couldn't hope to reach. I was no longer the fate he sought to conquer. He had surpassed fate, he had crossed the finish line first---and ironically, I was the one left behind to choke on his dust.

You've learned to love, but that love falls apart

That little piece of heaven turns to dust

"Kuso!"

His curses grew sharper as I took yet another round from him. It was our usual weekend routine, one that had blossomed out of the blue, just like our unfathomable relationship. We had been playing the one-on-one challenge for weeks, ever since his team toppled mine during the prefectural games in Kanagawa. I had never met a player with so much passion for the game, far exceeding my own intense zeal. He was a natural and his movements were beautifully flawless, easily rivaling my skills. However, his emotional insecurities presented cracks in the seemingly unblemished façade and that was what I would always take advantage of. Thus, we would take turns winning rounds in each weekly challenge, but I had always come up ahead---even for just for a little bit.

"I win this one, Kaede." I smiled victoriously through the profuse sweat that covered my drained body. I was breathing extremely hard, solid proof that victory was never easy with him.

He merely grunted in return but judiciously threw me a towel as he slumped on the ground, accepting his defeat. I was still his hero. I was still his goal, even though I could feel him draw a little bit closer every time we play. I tried harder each time, tried so hard I sometimes thought my body would explode from the pressure of always rising above his radiant star. Because if I didn't pour my life-soul into every game we play, I knew he would eventually rise above me and leave me lying in the ground---and I would not mean a thing to him at all. As long as I was his purpose, as long as I was still his goal, I had a place in the cold caverns of his heart. And unbeknownst to him, that was the only reason I had for living.

"You were unbelievable today, Kaede. You've improved so much, it's scaring the wits out of me."

Those cold cobalt-blue orbs stared at me with such intensity, I could almost feel my soul being unlocked.

"Someday, Akira. Someday, I'll beat you for real," he vowed, staring me down with his snow-laden gaze. His determination overwhelmed me, though I did my best to mask my fears. The "someday" he was aiming for was the time I would lose him, lose all that he had ever been to me. Rukawa Kaede had been life itself for me and to lose him would be losing life itself. I would become an empty shell of desolation, a ghost of a vaguely remembered past. My existence would become meaningless to him and this was a reality I knew I could not bear to face. Which is why I just had to keep on winning---just so I could live in his cold world a little while longer.

Listen to your heart, when it's calling for you

Listen to your heart, there's nothing else you can do

I don't know where you're going and I don't know why

Listen to your heart, before you tell him goodbye

The Inter-High Championships was closing in on us so fast, it seemed that Kami-sama switched time into warp mode. Soon, he would be leaving for the championships and I would be left behind with just the memories of our weekend trysts. I had yet to properly tell him how I felt and he has yet to bring down the glacier walls that surrounded his icy heart. I had managed, or so I thought, to put some cracks in the wall, but I didn't want to barge in unwelcomed. I needed the key to unlock that frozen door.

I asked him for one last one-on-one challenge, for I knew he would readily accept. What I actually wanted was a chance to be alone with him and finally tell him how I feel. I didn't even bother to think what the consequences of my confession would be, because I didn't really care. Even if my feelings would go unreciprocated, I was confident that as long as basketball was his true love, then I would still be a part of his life.

On that fateful day, just as the sunset kissed the shadows of the court, I faced the one person who meant eternity to me and finally opened my heart.

"Dai suki, Kaede. Honto ni…dai suki."

The cold, beautiful blue eyes gazed at me, weighing each word I said. Bathed in the orange glow of the afternoon sunset, his pale skin glowed with unparalleled radiance. His beauty took my breath away, but his blazing stare impaled my soul.

"Don't mess with my heart, Akira. You've already done enough damage to it."

The wind whistled through the leaves of the trees, making the silence between us felt like tiny pinpricks. My head fully comprehended the meaning of his words, but my heart had lost all of its ability to feel.

"Kaede…what do you…"

"Don't tell me you love me. This---what we have right now…is more than enough."

And for the first time in my life as a full-grown man, I, Sendoh Akira gave in to tears.

Sometimes you wonder if this fight is worthwhile

The precious moments are lost in the tide

There's much to weigh and nothing is what it seems

A feeling of belonging to your dreams

Now I'm standing here watching him spread his wings and fly towards his precious dreams. I have, after all this time, been fighting a losing battle. I had thought that I could stop that "someday" from coming too fast, from coming at all. I had staked everything I had---my pride, my heart, my very soul. And I had lost. Now I am no longer the purpose he is carving his life's path for. Now, I am no longer the fate he has to conquer. My lease on the cold caverns of his heart had finally worn out, though I had never minded the cold for it warmed me far better than any fire could.

My eyes grew hazy as I watched him close his eyes again and make another flawless shot. The spectators were already crying, shedding tears for the soulful player that was him. Before he played with just his raw, God-given talent and instincts, but today, he was playing with his soul. Even from afar, I could see how his eyes blazed with unsurpassed determination. Even from afar, I could see the radiance of his pale skin just like the time when it was bathed in the orange glow of sunset. Even from afar, I could see how the glaciers of his heart surrounded his being, that frozen door tightly shut. I know that I could always reach out towards that door, always knock again and again and again. But my efforts would be useless for I no longer have the key to unlock it.

So I watched him, watched as the letters spelling eternity shed tears before my eyes. And when he made that one last shot, I turned my back and walked away, shedding the tears for the eternity I had lost.

Listen to your heart, when it's calling for you

Listen to your heart, there's nothing else you can do

I don't know where you're going and I don't know why

Listen to your heart, before you tell him goodbye